Review: Christina Fernandez’s photographs, on view in Riverside, are a major pivot in Chicano art, demonstrating how new imagery of Mexican-ness can be made into a political statement. Her images are striking, in both form and subject matter. They are both evocative portraits of the Chicano community with a subtle political message (about the need for economic justice) and a beautiful photograph.
The exhibition “The Chicano Image” includes photographs by Christina Fernandez, a Chicano art historian, photographer and educator. She is a professor at the University of California at Riverside, where she was appointed in 2000. Since then, her work has been represented across the country. After coming to Riverside, she taught there for a time and helped to establish the University’s first Chicano Studies Center, now called the Chicano Modernism Institute. Fernandez and I met in 2009, when I was a student in her first-year course on photography at UC Riverside. I had admired her photographs from afar, but it was only when I met her that I realized she was a serious artist, one who had devoted herself to working professionally and had made a name for herself as a teacher and scholar.
The photographs in the exhibition are selected from Fernandez’s numerous books, exhibition catalogues, and her own books of photographs. The accompanying texts are written by Cristina Fernandez and by two individuals who are close friends of hers, one of whom is also a photographer in her own right. The texts are very personal and tell the story of Christina Fernandez through her own eyes and what she has experienced, including her childhood, where she made her own photographs, and how they informed her photographic work.
The exhibition has been shown in numerous galleries and schools in the U.S. and abroad, and I would not have visited it without the invitation to write a review of this exhibition. That said, I would like to add a few points about the exhibition as well as my own personal thoughts about it.
What: A major pivot in Chicano art, Fernandez’ photographs are a major step forward in the re-education of American society on Mexican-ness.
The images in the exhibition are many and diverse. “The Chicano Image,” a selection of her works on paper, is shown as a series, with an accompanying text written by Cristina Fernandez. She chose the